Contemporary Approaches to Teaching – Panel Q & A response

This is the second in a series of articles following our recent event Contemporary Approaches to Teaching –December 10th responding to questions raised by participants.

While the panel was able to respond to some of the questions on the day, there wasn’t time to address them all.  To enable all questions to receive a response we will be posting them on the blog over the coming weeks.

We would be really interested in receiving your comments and feedback about the questions, the panel responses and your own experience.

This week’s question:

‘What do you feel needs to change in order for a cultural shift (not a policy driven one) for academics and HE to embrace new ways of working in learning and teaching?

“With the push to innovate and integrate new ways of using technology comes risk, confusion at times, more flexibility in how we teach and communicate etc.

Much of the above doesn’t fit with the current strict academic regulations in terms of work planning, assessment regulations, NSS outcomes, job roles, Blackboard and many others.”’

A response to this question was provided by: Brian Irwin – Head of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) and Emily Connor – Education Officer, Students Union

Brian concentrated his response on teaching with TEL, saying “I think cultural shifts happen as a result of a series of different things. Innovation is a part of that process, with staff given opportunities to take some risks, invest in new technologies, and try new teaching approaches. However it’s only the start of that process: indeed some innovations will never lead to anything as it may not improve things.

When we have things that are proven and work (and necessary for the student experience) we need to be able to take those innovations across a wider area effectively. This takes the support of both institutional and local leadership; and time and support for people in the area to be able to adjust their practices. Local leadership is vital in this process in terms of implementing key changes and setting aside time in work plans, coordinating group discussions and staff development, etc. So I think one of the keys is investing in our local leaders.

In response to some of the things that “don’t fit” – job roles is something we make when hiring new staff and can be changed if they need to be. While Blackboard is not the end-all of technology enhanced learning it can be integrated with a number of different things and can help provide a safe place and a consistent experience for students.”

Emily took a broader approach to the question and considered whether academics consider their own teaching and its effectiveness. “Effectiveness in many ways can be boiled down to numbers – attendance, performance, assessment. However this data might not always be as helpful in describing exactly how ‘strong’ an academic’s teaching is. It’s the less tangible which can in some cases be more useful, but requires a little more intuition. Class morale, course community or the ways that we allow all students to feed back on their academic University experience are all important ways to understand how well your teaching is‘working’.

If we do not have effective and established mechanisms for students to feedback on their course, module or lecture then as an institution Sheffield Hallam is missing out on a wealth of information which could help to shape effective teaching in the future. By listening to how students learn best, rather than reusing traditional methods for fear of risk, individual academics will become more respected, more appreciated and more understood. Through working with these ideas and embracing constructive feedback, systems like ‘Student Representatives’ become more about enhancement and a true partnership which is effectively utilised.

I do not discredit the strain that is put on academics from regulations etc. The pressure from those above is just as strong as that from students, but without a little risk and change we stop Sheffield Hallam from becoming progressive and risk trailing behind the rest of the sector. ”

You can see a video of the panel discussion from the 10th December on shuplayer using this link: Contemporary Approaches to Teaching – Panel Q & A

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